In 2009 New York and Amsterdam celebrate the historical link between the two cities. New York began its history as a Dutch trading post at the southern tip of Manhattan. In 2009 it is 400 years since Henry Hudson discovered the island of Manhattan and declared it as an ideal natural harbour. To mark this 400th anniversary, Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam and the Amsterdam City Archives, in cooperation with the John Adams Institute, are organising a photo exhibition about Amsterdam, as seen through the eyes of New York photographers.
The American photographers Gus Powell, Carl Wooley, Richard Rothman and Joshua Lutz were each commissioned to explore a different aspect of the city: the street, the night, the water and the outskirts. This resulted in surprising images that revealed an unknown side of the Dutch capital. The New York photographers were struck by Amsterdam’s small scale and peacefulness; but also by more subtle things such as the transparency of the Dutch houses with their big windows, which give every passer-by a glimpse into the private world of the inhabitants.
For his series Voetganger (Pedestrian), the street photographer Gus Powell (1974) was inspired to use the Dutch windows as mirrors and to play a game with interior-exterior and supposed reality. The modern city is a community of strangers and this is how the pedestrians in Powell’s photos move through the urban space, whether in the streets of New York or Amsterdam.
Carl Wooley (1977) is originally a filmmaker and in his series Night, the suspense gives rise to a vague suggestion of drama. On his nightly bicycle rides he did not photograph the garish electric signage in the well-known city centre, but inconspicuous and undefined places, often on the periphery.
In Richard Rothman’s (1956) work, nature plays an important role. For his series Water, he took precise black and white photos in which the foliage of the many trees planted along Amsterdam’s waterways forms a screen through which the city and the water shimmer indistinctly. Rothman experienced Amsterdam as a heavenly version of New York City, a city surrounded by water. He photographed ‘Amsterdammers’ who live in the boats on the water, a typical feature of Amsterdam culture. And finally, for his series Borders Joshua Lutz (1975) explored the outskirts of Amsterdam. He found there a diverse area, with the occasional American influence: a Cadillac parked in a suburb or a ‘Sizzling Wok’ which uses brightly lit signage to lure passing drivers to this spaceship.
For the exhibition in the main hall of ‘De Bazel’ building, architect Jeroen de Vries has made an unusual design, giving each visitor to a taste of what the exhibition has to offer. On screens, visitors can view the American images of these four photographers. In the cinema, films about New York will be shown and in the vaults next to the Treasury the Maria Austria Institute will display historical images of New York from its rich collection.
NY Perspectives – Amsterdam discovered by NY photographers can be seen from May 14 to August 23 2009 at Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Amsterdam City Archives), Vijzelstraat 32, 1017 HL AMSTERDAM. For more info and images visit : http://www.nyperspectives.com